Could injury to Mariners’ Taijuan Walker impact the Chicago Cubs?


Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With Spring Training just starting for Major League teams, top young prospects have already started to get hit with the injury bug. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras is not able to play games yet with his ankle still not fully healthy, and maybe more alarming, the Seattle Mariners’ Taijuan Walker has been shut down once again, for at least a week with shoulder inflammation.

Walker, just 21 years of age, got the call to the Major Leagues in 2013 after posting a sub-3.00 earned run average between Double-A and Triple-A. The top Mariners prospect showed promise in his debut, putting up a 3.60 E.R.A in just 15 frames while striking out 12, and was expected to be a big part of the suddenly better Mariners club.

With Walker’s health in question and All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma shut down for 4-6 weeks, the Mariners’ 2014 rotation could be in fairly serious peril. Enter the Cubs. As I’ve talked about before, the Mariners could make a considerable amount of sense as a trading partner.

Manager Lloyd McClendon hinted that Walker definitely will be treated with serious caution, so one might assume the Mariners’ possible interest in Jeff Samardzija could tick up, or the Mariners could be interested in someone like Carlos Villanueva. They unquestionably need somebody to hold down the fort while Iwakuma and Walker get healthy.

I seriously doubt the Mariners, all of a sudden expecting to compete, to go into the season with Felix Hernandez and James Paxton as the only respectable starters in their rotation. Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders combined for 54 of the Mariners’ starts in 2013, and both are gone. Brandon Maurer made 14 unsuccessful starts, ending with an ERA over 6.00.

The point is, Seattle’s rotation needs immense help. If Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker are indeed out an extended period of time, I would think that they almost certainly have to go outside the organization. The Cubs have at least two pitchers the Mariners could have interest in. This is a story I would definitely keep your eye on this spring, as the Mariners should, by all odds, be working the phones this spring or even the trade deadline.